A Walking Tour of Los Angeles Architecture: From Art Deco to California Bungalow

When archi­tec­tur­al his­to­ri­an Reyn­er Ban­ham wrote Los Ange­les: The Archi­tec­ture of Four Ecolo­gies (1971), quite pos­si­bly the most influ­en­tial book pub­lished about the South­ern Cal­i­forn­ian metrop­o­lis, he saw fit to dis­miss the cen­ter of the city with what he called “a note on down­town.” He con­cedes that it has its land­marks, like the Cathe­dral of San­ta Vib­iana and the much-filmed Brad­bury Build­ing, “one of the most mag­nif­i­cent relics of nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry com­mer­cial archi­tec­ture any­where in the world.” But he finds the urban scene that sur­rounds them hope­less­ly deplet­ed: “Many US cities have had their down­town areas fall into this kind of desue­tude,” but “in none of the oth­ers does one have quite such a strong feel­ing that this is where the action can­not pos­si­bly be.”

Things have changed since The Archi­tec­ture of Four Ecolo­gies came out more than half a cen­tu­ry ago. After count­less abort­ed attempts at revival, down­town Los Ange­les seems final­ly to have found its way to becom­ing a true city cen­ter once again.

This has to do with a num­ber of fac­tors, includ­ing its posi­tion­ing as the hub of the rail tran­sit that’s been open­ing in stages since the ear­ly nineties, its lev­els of com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial den­si­ty at which today’s zon­ing laws make dif­fi­cult or impos­si­ble to build, and the sheer diver­si­ty of its built envi­ron­ment. In the Archi­tec­tur­al Digest video above, Los Ange­les archi­tect Valéry Augustin pro­vides a walk­ing tour of that diver­si­ty, intro­duc­ing a strik­ing build­ing from each era of the city’s devel­op­ment.

Ban­ham and Agustin agree on the impor­tance of Los Ange­les’ City Hall and Union Sta­tion. But Augustin also high­lights the Art Deco East­ern Colum­bia Build­ing, the Chur­rigueresque Mil­lion Dol­lar The­ater, and a cou­ple of major struc­tures that Ban­ham did­n’t live to see, the Broad Muse­um and Ramon C. Cortines School Of Visu­al And Per­form­ing Arts. (Notably absent is Frank Gehry’s Walt Dis­ney Con­cert Hall, whose once-shock­ing metal­lic curves have per­haps been over­ex­posed over these past cou­ple of decades.) But what­ev­er the won­ders of down­town, it’s long been argued that Los Ange­les’ has more of a pri­vate archi­tec­tur­al her­itage than a pub­lic one; to under­stand the city’s archi­tec­ture, in oth­er words, you can’t ignore its hous­es.

Hence Archi­tec­tur­al Digest’s hav­ing also put out a video in which Augustin breaks down the five most com­mon types of Los Ange­les home. These include exam­ple of the roman­ti­cized Mis­sion Revival style, the idyl­lic Cal­i­for­nia bun­ga­low, the board­walk beach house (as seen in ocean enclaves like San­ta Mon­i­ca and Venice), and more cul­tur­al­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive hous­ing forms such as bun­ga­low courts (as seen in Par­ty of Five) and post­war ding­bat apart­ments. With their broad car­ports, their play­ful­ly exot­ic names, and their box­like con­struc­tion front­ed, as Ban­ham observes, by a range of styles from “from Tacoburg­er Aztec to Wavy-Line Mod­erne, from Cod Cape Cod to un-sup­port­ed Jaoul vaults, from Gourmet Mansardic to Poly­ne­sian Gabled and even — in extrem­i­ty — Mod­ern Archi­tec­ture,” they may well be the most Los Ange­les build­ings of all.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Sto­ry of Goo­gie Archi­tec­ture, the Icon­ic Archi­tec­tur­al Style of Los Ange­les

That Far Cor­ner: Frank Lloyd Wright in Los Ange­les – A Free Online Doc­u­men­tary

1,300 Pho­tos of Famous Mod­ern Amer­i­can Homes Now Online, Cour­tesy of USC

Take a Dri­ve Through 1940s, 50s & 60s Los Ange­les with Vin­tage Through-the-Car-Win­dow Films

Watch Randy Newman’s Tour of Los Ange­les’ Sun­set Boule­vard, and You’ll Love L.A. Too

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

“Hello Vincent”: A Generative AI Project Brings Vincent Van Gogh to Life at the Musée D’Orsay


If you attend the “Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise” exhi­bi­tion at the Musée D’Or­say, in Paris, you can spend time with “Hel­lo Vin­cent,” a gen­er­a­tive Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence project that allows vis­i­tors to have “a unique, per­son­al­ized encounter” with Vin­cent van Gogh. Accord­ing to CBS Sun­day Morn­ing, whose report we’ve includ­ed above, “Hel­lo Vin­cent” allows muse­um vis­i­tors to con­verse with Van Gogh and ask him ques­tions. His respons­es draw on a cor­pus of 900 let­ters where Van Gogh talks about his life and work. And appar­ent­ly “the more ques­tions you ask, the more the AI learns and improves.”

The “Hel­lo Vin­cent” project was devel­oped by Jum­bo Mana, a start­up spe­cial­iz­ing in gen­er­a­tive AI that brings char­ac­ters to life.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent 

A Com­plete Archive of Vin­cent van Gogh’s Let­ters: Beau­ti­ful­ly Illus­trat­ed and Ful­ly Anno­tat­ed

Down­load Hun­dreds of Van Gogh Paint­ings, Sketch­es & Let­ters in High Res­o­lu­tion

Vin­cent van Gogh Vis­its a Mod­ern Art Gallery & Gets to See His Artis­tic Lega­cy: A Touch­ing Scene from Doc­tor Who

Mar­tin Scors­ese Plays Vin­cent Van Gogh in a Short, Sur­re­al Film by Aki­ra Kuro­sawa

Watch the Trail­er for a “Ful­ly Paint­ed” Van Gogh Film: Fea­tures 12 Oil Paint­ings Per Sec­ond by 100+ Painters

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Discover the World’s Oldest University, Which Opened in 427 CE, Housed 9 Million Manuscripts, and Then Educated Students for 800 Years

In the Bud­dhist Asia of a dozen cen­turies ago, the equiv­a­lent of going off to study at an Ivy League school was going off to study at Nalan­da. It was found­ed in the year 427 in what’s now the Indi­an state of Bihar, mak­ing it “the world’s first res­i­den­tial uni­ver­si­ty,” as Sug­a­to Mukher­jee writes at BBC trav­el. As it devel­oped, Nalan­da became a “home to nine mil­lion books that attract­ed 10,000 stu­dents from across East­ern and Cen­tral Asia. They gath­ered here to learn med­i­cine, log­ic, math­e­mat­ics and – above all – Bud­dhist prin­ci­ples from some of the era’s most revered schol­ars.”

Alas, despite being much old­er than the famous­ly ven­er­a­ble uni­ver­si­ties of Bologna, Oxford, or Cam­bridge, Nalan­da can’t claim to have been in con­tin­u­ous oper­a­tion since the fifth cen­tu­ry. Destroyed by maraud­ers dur­ing Turko-Afghan gen­er­al Bakhti­yar Khilji’s con­quest of north­ern and east­ern India in the 1190s, its vast cam­pus lay in obscure ruins until Scot­tish sur­vey­or Fran­cis Buchanan-Hamil­ton and British Army engi­neer Sir Alexan­der Cun­ning­ham redis­cov­ered and iden­ti­fied it, respec­tive­ly, in the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry.

In its near­ly eight cen­turies of ini­tial activ­i­ty, writes Mukher­jee, Nalan­da attract­ed pro­to-inter­na­tion­al stu­dents from all over Asia, and “reg­u­lar­ly sent some of its best schol­ars and pro­fes­sors to places like Chi­na, Korea, Japan, Indone­sia and Sri Lan­ka to prop­a­gate Bud­dhist teach­ings and phi­los­o­phy.” Its notable fac­ul­ty mem­bers includ­ed Aryab­ha­ta, “the father of Indi­an math­e­mat­ics,” who may have been its head in the sixth cen­tu­ry, and Chi­nese Bud­dhist monk Xuan­zang, who returned to his home­land in 645 with “a wag­onload of 657 Bud­dhist scrip­tures from Nalan­da.” Lat­er “he would trans­late a por­tion of these vol­umes into Chi­nese to cre­ate his life’s trea­tise.”

Image by Sum­it­surai, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Of the nine mil­lion hand­writ­ten Bud­dhist man­u­scripts in Nalan­da’s library at the time of its destruc­tion, “only a hand­ful” sur­vived. Some of them even­tu­al­ly made their way to the Los Ange­les Coun­ty Muse­um of Art, a fit­ting enough trib­ute to the world-span­ning out­look of the insti­tu­tion. Not far from its orig­i­nal loca­tion, now a UNESCO World Her­itage site, Nalan­da is mak­ing a come­back as an inter­na­tion­al place of learn­ing for the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry. You can get a sense of how that project is shap­ing up from the BBC Reel video above. “I think we are already a uni­ver­si­ty of the future,” says its Vice Chan­cel­lor Sunaina Singh, and indeed, a promis­ing vision of the future needs noth­ing quite so much as a suf­fi­cient­ly deep past.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Intro­duc­tion to Indi­an Phi­los­o­phy: A Free Online Course

The Most Dis­tant Places Vis­it­ed by the Romans: Africa, Scan­di­navia, Chi­na, India, Ara­bia & Oth­er Far-Flung Lands

Learn the His­to­ry of Indi­an Phi­los­o­phy in a 62 Episode Series from The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy With­out Any Gaps: The Bud­dha, Bha­gavad-Gita, Non Vio­lence & More

One of the Old­est Bud­dhist Man­u­scripts Has Been Dig­i­tized & Put Online: Explore the Gand­hara Scroll

How 99% of Ancient Lit­er­a­ture Was Lost

The Largest Free Kitchen in the World: Dis­cov­er India’s Gold­en Tem­ple Which Serves 100,000 Free Meals Per Day

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Hear Grace Slick’s Hair-Raising Vocals in the Isolated Track for “White Rabbit” (1967)

“One pill makes you larg­er and one pill makes you small…”

Some­time in the sum­mer of 2016, this iso­lat­ed track of Grace Slick’s vocals for “White Rab­bit”–prob­a­bly the most famous Jef­fer­son Air­plane song and def­i­nite­ly one of the top ten psy­che­del­ic songs of the late ‘60s–popped up YouTube. As these things go, nobody took cred­it, but every­body on the Inter­net was thank­ful.

Drenched in echo, Slick sings with mar­tial pre­ci­sion, com­plete­ly in com­mand of her vibra­to and dip­ping and ris­ing all through the Phry­gian scale (also known as the Span­ish or Gyp­sy scale.) And no won­der, the song was writ­ten in 1965 after an LSD trip at her Marin coun­ty home where Slick had lis­tened to Miles Davis’ Sketch­es of Spain over and over again for 24 hours. Com­pare the orig­i­nal ver­sion to Davis’ track “Solea” to hear what I mean.

Bob Irwin, who was in charge of remas­ter­ing Jef­fer­son Airplane’s cat­a­log in 2003, was the first to hear Slick’s iso­lat­ed vocals after many, many years:

When you put up the mul­ti- tracks of the per­for­mances to some­thing like “White Rab­bit” and iso­late Grace’s vocal…you can’t believe the inten­si­ty in that vocal. It’s hair-rais­ing, and absolute­ly unbe­liev­able. I was telling Bill Thomp­son about that. It’s not that I’m so well-sea­soned that noth­ing sur­pris­es me, but boy oh boy, when I put that mul­ti up and I heard Grace’s vocal solo-ed—and it’s absolute­ly whis­per-qui­et, there’s not an ounce of leak­age in there at all—-you can hear every breath drawn and the inten­si­ty and the con­cen­tra­tion…

Inter­est­ing­ly, when Slick wrote the song, Air­plane hadn’t start­ed. Instead she was in a band called The Great Soci­ety, and the orig­i­nal jam ver­sion doesn’t do jus­tice to the com­po­si­tion.

Rhythm gui­tarist David Minor recalled that the song came out of a song­writ­ing request to the oth­er mem­bers of the band.

“When we start­ed work­ing, nobody had any­thing because I couldn’t write any more,” he recalls. “I was too busy keep­ing up with my var­i­ous jobs. So Grace’s hus­band Jer­ry chal­lenged them: ‘What are you gonna do? Let David write all the songs?’ Y’know, ‘Do some­thing!’. So Dar­by came back with a cou­ple of songs and Grace came back with White Rab­bit.”

When the Great Soci­ety fell apart, Jef­fer­son Air­plane chose Slick as their singer in 1966 and she brought with her “White Rab­bit.” The rest is rock his­to­ry, and a large part of the now-retired Slick’s income.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2017. It’s a favorite, and today we’re bring­ing it back for an encore.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Grace Slick Wrote “White Rab­bit”: The 1960s Clas­sic Inspired by LSD, Lewis Car­roll, Miles Davis’ Sketch­es of Spain, and Hyp­o­crit­i­cal Par­ents

Watch Jazzy Spies: 1969 Psy­che­del­ic Sesame Street Ani­ma­tion, Fea­tur­ing Grace Slick, Teach­es Kids to Count

Dick Clark Intro­duces Jef­fer­son Air­plane & the Sounds of Psy­che­del­ic San Fran­cis­co to Amer­i­ca: Yes Par­ents, You Should Be Afraid (1967)

Jef­fer­son Air­plane Plays on a New York Rooftop; Jean-Luc Godard Cap­tures It (1968)

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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Isaac Asimov Predicts the Future in 1982: Computers Will Be “at the Center of Everything;” Robots Will Take Human Jobs

Four decades ago, our civ­i­liza­tion seemed to stand on the brink of a great trans­for­ma­tion. The Cold War had stoked around 35 years of every-inten­si­fy­ing devel­op­ments, includ­ing but not lim­it­ed to the Space Race. The per­son­al com­put­er had been on the mar­ket just long enough for most Amer­i­cans to, if not actu­al­ly own one, then at least to won­der if they might soon find them­selves in need of one. On New Year’s Eve of 1982, The Mac­Neil-Lehrer News Hour offered its view­ers a glimpse of the shape of things to come by invit­ing a trio of for­ward-look­ing guestsWas­n’t the Future Won­der­ful author Tim Onosko; Omni mag­a­zine edi­tor Dick Tere­si; and, most dis­tin­guished of all, Isaac Asi­mov.

As the “author of more than 250 books, light and heavy, fic­tion and non-fic­tion, some of the most notable being about the future,” Asi­mov had long been a go-to inter­vie­wee for media out­lets in need of long-range pre­dic­tions about tech­nol­o­gy, soci­ety, and the dynam­ic rela­tion­ship between the two. (Here on Open Cul­ture, we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured his spec­u­la­tions from 1983, 1980, 1978, 1967, and 1964.) Robert Mac­Neil opens with a nat­ur­al sub­ject for any sci­ence-fic­tion writer: mankind’s for­ays into out­er space, and whether Asi­mov sees “any­thing left out there.” Asi­mov’s response: “Oh, every­thing.”

In the ear­ly eight­ies, the man who wrote the Foun­da­tion series saw human­i­ty as “still in the Christo­pher Colum­bus stage as far as space is con­cerned,” fore­see­ing not just space sta­tions but “solar pow­er sta­tions,” “lab­o­ra­to­ries and fac­to­ries that can do things in space that are dif­fi­cult or impos­si­ble to do on Earth,” and even “space set­tle­ments in which thou­sands of peo­ple can be housed more or less per­ma­nent­ly.” In the full­ness of time, the goal would be to “build a larg­er and more elab­o­rate civ­i­liza­tion and one which does not depend upon the resources of one world.”

As for “the com­put­er age,” asks Jim Lehrer; “have we crest­ed on that one as well”? Asi­mov knew full well that the com­put­er would be “at the cen­ter of every­thing.” Just as had hap­pened with tele­vi­sion over the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion, “com­put­ers are going to be nec­es­sary in the house to do a great many things, some in the way of enter­tain­ment, some in the way of mak­ing life a lit­tle eas­i­er, and every­one will want it.” There were many, even then, who could feel real excite­ment at the prospect of such a future. But what of robots, which, as even Asi­mov knew, would come to “replace human beings?”

“It’s not that they kill them, but they kill their jobs,” he explains, and those who lose the old jobs may not be equipped to take on any of the new ones. “We are going to have to accept an impor­tant role — soci­ety as a whole — in mak­ing sure that the tran­si­tion peri­od from the pre-robot­ic tech­nol­o­gy to the post-robot­ic tech­nol­o­gy is as pain­less as pos­si­ble. We have to make sure that peo­ple aren’t treat­ed as though they’re used up dishrags, that they have to be allowed to live and retain their self-respect.” Today, the tech­nol­o­gy of the moment is arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, which the news media haven’t hes­i­tat­ed to pay near-obses­sive atten­tion to. (I’m trav­el­ing in Japan at the moment, and saw just such a broad­cast on my hotel TV this morn­ing.) Would that they still had an Asi­mov to dis­cuss it with a lev­el-head­ed, far-sight­ed per­spec­tive.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Isaac Asi­mov Pre­dicts in 1983 What the World Will Look Like in 2019: Com­put­er­i­za­tion, Glob­al Co-oper­a­tion, Leisure Time & Moon Min­ing

Isaac Asi­mov Pre­dicts the Future on The David Let­ter­man Show (1980)

Isaac Asi­mov Pre­dicts the Future of Civ­i­liza­tion — and Rec­om­mends Ways to Ensure That It Sur­vives (1978)

Buck­min­ster Fuller, Isaac Asi­mov & Oth­er Futur­ists Make Pre­dic­tions About the 21st Cen­tu­ry in 1967: What They Got Right & Wrong

In 1964, Isaac Asi­mov Pre­dicts What the World Will Look Like Today: Self-Dri­ving Cars, Video Calls, Fake Meats & More

Nine Sci­ence-Fic­tion Authors Pre­dict the Future: How Jules Verne, Isaac Asi­mov, William Gib­son, Philip K. Dick & More Imag­ined the World Ahead

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The Jazz Classic “Take Five” Played Beautifully on a 1959 Classical Guitar

Above we have George Sakel­lar­i­ou per­form­ing Paul Desmond’s jazz clas­sic, “Take Five,” on a vin­tage 1959 Viu­da y Sobri­nos de Domin­go Este­so (Conde Her­manos) clas­si­cal gui­tar. First record­ed in 1959 by the Dave Brubeck Quar­tet, the track even­tu­al­ly became the best-sell­ing jazz song of all time. It’s also a song fre­quent­ly cov­ered by oth­er tal­ent­ed musi­cians. Orig­i­nal­ly from Athens, George Sakel­lar­i­ou joined the San Fran­cis­co Con­ser­va­to­ry of Music and lat­er became chair­man of their Gui­tar Depart­ment. As his bio notes, his gui­tar style places an empha­sis “on clear tone and smooth lyri­cal lines,” all on dis­play here. Enjoy…

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Watch an Incred­i­ble Per­for­mance of “Take Five” by the Dave Brubeck Quar­tet (1964)

How Dave Brubeck’s Time Out Changed Jazz Music

Pak­istani Musi­cians Play a Won­der­ful Ver­sion of Dave Brubeck’s Jazz Clas­sic, “Take Five”

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Scenes from Life in Paris During the 1920s, Colorized and Restored: Cafés, Notre Dame, Street Life & More

Few cities have been as roman­ti­cized as Paris, and few eras in Paris have been as roman­ti­cized as the nine­teen-twen­ties. This owes much to the famous expa­tri­ate artis­tic and lit­er­ary fig­ures resid­ing there in that decade: Ernest Hem­ing­way, Sal­vador Dalí, F. Scott and Zel­da Fitzger­ald, Pablo Picas­so, Gertrude Stein, and Man Ray, to name just a few of the fig­ures revived in Woody Allen’s Mid­night in Paris. It’s still dif­fi­cult, a cen­tu­ry lat­er, not to feel at least some curios­i­ty about the real Paris in the twen­ties, footage of which you can see col­orized and enhanced to play at a smooth 60 frames per sec­ond in the video above.

In some respects, Paris has­n’t changed much over the past hun­dred or so years. Notre-Dame, the bridges across the Seine, and the colonne Vendôme will be imme­di­ate­ly rec­og­niz­able to any­one who’s been there.

And though the attire of Parisians may be unrec­og­niz­able, their habits cer­tain­ly aren’t: then as now, they clear­ly spent con­sid­er­able amounts of time on les ter­rass­es of their cafés of choice. (And in some cas­es, they’re just the same cafés, as in the case of Le Dôme and Le Café de la Paix.) And though a few of them still read news­pa­pers there in the twen­ty-twen­ties, many more did in the nine­teen twen­ties, the inven­tion of the smart­phone lying about eighty years in the future.

For some of us, the absence of screens alone may feel like rea­son enough to time-trav­el back, as Owen Wilson’s dis­af­fect­ed Hol­ly­wood screen­writer does in Mid­night in Paris. If we con­sid­er the state of plumb­ing, heat­ing and den­tistry in the France after World War I, we may have sec­ond thoughts, and sure­ly our fore­knowl­edge of World War II would also put a damper on the expe­ri­ence. But romance is romance, and if we could suc­cess­ful­ly man­age to inte­grate our­selves into the urban life cap­tured by these film clips, we might just get used to it, and even want to stick around for a few more decades after Hem­ing­way, Picas­so, the Fitzger­alds, et al leave the scene. After all, les Trente Glo­rieuses were still to come.

via MyMod­ern­Met

Relat­ed con­tent:

Pris­tine Footage Lets You Revis­it Life in Paris in the 1890s: Watch Footage Shot by the Lumière Broth­ers

Beau­ti­ful, Col­or Pho­tographs of Paris Tak­en 100 Years Ago — at the Begin­ning of World War I & the End of La Belle Époque

Watch Scenes from Belle Époque Paris Vivid­ly Restored with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence (Cir­ca 1890)

Paris, New York & Havana Come to Life in Col­orized Films Shot Between 1890 and 1931

Vis­it Great Cities in the 1920s in Restored Col­or Film: New York City, Lon­don, Berlin, Paris, Venice & More

Col­or Footage of the Lib­er­a­tion of Paris, Shot by Hol­ly­wood Direc­tor George Stevens (1944)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Watch a 1915 Film Adaptation of Alice in Wonderland Enhanced in 4K, with Costumes Based on Original Illustrations by Sir John Tenniel

Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land pre­dates the inven­tion of cin­e­ma by a cou­ple of decades. Nev­er­the­less, much like the “Drink me” bot­tle and “Eat me” pre­sent­ed to its young pro­tag­o­nist, Lewis Car­rol­l’s fan­tas­ti­cal tale has called out the same mes­sage to gen­er­a­tions of film­mak­ers around the world: “Adapt me.” This cen­tu­ry, though not even a quar­ter of the way over, has already brought us full-length Alice movies (to say noth­ing of tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tions) from Europe, South Amer­i­ca, and of course the Unit­ed States. Those last include sep­a­rate adap­ta­tions of Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land and its sequel Alice Through the Look­ing Glass by no less an auteur than Tim Bur­ton.

Both of those books were also tak­en on by a writer-direc­tor named W. W. Young more than a cen­tu­ry ago, though he sim­ply com­bined por­tions of both nov­els into a sin­gle fea­ture. You can watch this silent Alice in Won­der­land from 1915 above, in a ver­sion its uploader calls “by far the high­est qual­i­ty ver­sion of this film on the inter­net,” assem­bled “pri­mar­i­ly from two prints scanned by the Library of Con­gress, along with a few oth­er sources.

Enhanced with “scene-by-scene image sta­bi­liza­tion,” it also excis­es “many title cards which were not part of the orig­i­nal film” added to sub­se­quent ver­sions, “and which slowed down the film con­sid­er­ably.”

Run­ning just under an hour, this recon­struc­tion includes scenes with such wide­ly known char­ac­ters as the Cater­pil­lar, the Cheshire Cat, the Mock Tur­tle and the Queen of Hearts. Young’s footage of such fig­ures as Twee­dledee and Twee­dle­dum and Hump­ty Dump­ty has, alas, been lost to time. Still, unusu­al­ly for a film adap­ta­tion, this ver­sion includes much of Car­rol­l’s par­o­d­ic poem “You Are Old, Father William” — more, even, than made it into Dis­ney’s beloved ani­mat­ed fea­ture of 1951. With its stiff cos­tumes (based on the orig­i­nal illus­tra­tions by Sir John Ten­niel) and Long Island back­drops, Alice in Won­der­land may not boast quite the same pro­duc­tion val­ue, but watch­ing it now, long after the silent era, one can’t help but feel trans­port­ed to anoth­er real­i­ty alto­geth­er.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The First-Ever Film Ver­sion of Lewis Carroll’s Tale Alice in Won­der­land (1903)

The Orig­i­nal Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land Man­u­script, Hand­writ­ten & Illus­trat­ed By Lewis Car­roll (1864)

Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land Read by Sir John Giel­gud

When Aldous Hux­ley Wrote a Script for Disney’s Alice in Won­der­land

Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land, Illus­trat­ed by Sal­vador Dalí in 1969, Final­ly Gets Reis­sued

Curi­ous Alice — The 1971 Anti-Drug Movie Based on Alice in Won­der­land That Made Drugs Look Like Fun

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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